Christmas is a holiday with deep roots in Western culture, and some more recent inroads into others. Many of the Christmas traditions that have become central to the Christmas celebration have even older links to our pagan forebears.
While Christmas is celebrated in many places across the world, either as a religious or a secular holiday, there are many Christmas traditions that are specific to various regions. Have you experienced any interesting Christmas traditions as you’ve traveled? From traditional Christmas Market’s in Germany to tree lightings across the United States, each country has it’s own set of Christmas traditions.
Global Christmas Traditions
In Finland, a Hyvää joulua is assured by a visit from Joulupukki or just Santa Claus, where he is traditionally accompanied by his elves to hand out presents on Christmas night. In Greece, gifts aren’t traditionally given until Saint Basil’s Day, January 1st, although Christmas Day feasts are abundant after a fast. Traditional foods include christopsomo, or Christ Bread, which is a sweet bread served in large decorated loaves.
A Philippines Christmas contains echoes of its prevailing Asian and Spanish cultures, with a strong Catholic influence. Holiday celebrations commence nine days before Christmas with Misa de Gallo, a mass in which the story of the birth of Christ is read from the Bible. Each night, a man and woman are selected to play Joseph and Mary in a pageant showcasing their journey to the manger. Other religious observations include other pastore around the birth of Christ.
Just as some western Christmas traditions embrace our pagan tribal roots, that’s also true in the Philippines. Christmas includes strolling musicians that are a remnant of their indigenous people. These singers harmonize to Maligayang Pasko, which is set to the Happy Birthday melody.
In the Congo, an African Christmas is also celebrated with pageants. Christmas caroling is immensely popular. The central tradition of a Congo Christmas is the love offering, a gift made in honor of Jesus. Christ’s birthday is then celebrated with merriment and parties. This is followed by the sharing of a Christmas feast with family members and friends.
It’s clear that, for all we share, there are regional variations that reflect the traditions of each location and its people. In this way, we celebrate the holiday season in our own way!
Photo Credit: #1 courtesy of flickr user seelensturm, #2 courtesy of flickr user bingbing, #3 courtesy of flickr user coffeebugg all shared through a creative commons license.